Communities are a great way to connect with each other, especially for women. If you use the power of (online) communities to connect, you can achieve more. You can learn from each other and support each other which makes your work more fun. As a leader in digital marketing communications and co-founder of a number of online communities, I am very passionate about communities and their power and possibilities.

FACEBOOK CHANGES ITS MISSION TO COMMUNITIES AND SHOWS: COMMUNITIES ARE HOT!

Recently, Facebook announced that, over the next 10 years, they will shift their main focus to communities. Mark Zuckerberg: “Our full mission statement is: Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. That reflects that we can’t do this ourselves, but only by empowering people to build communities and bring people together.”

Facebook is shifting to communities for an important reason: they are hot! In this digital world, the amount of information that comes to us can be very overwhelming. As a reaction to this information overload, people are tending to get back to basics: back to their own safe community where they can connect to like-minded people and share information about subjects they like and are passionate about. Communities can exist online and in the physical world, or can be a combination of both.

 

WHY ARE COMMUNITIES SUCCESSFUL?

Communities help you with your personal development, to grow in your career, and to grow as a person. If you use the power of communities, you can achieve more. If we help each other, we will reach greater success. You can grow by connecting with others,not only for promotion, but also for having fun in your job, feeling supported, and being seen.

WOMEN ARE GREAT AT USING COMMUNITIES TO CONNECT

As women, we are great at using communities to connect. Do you know why? We’ve already been doing that for thousands of years. It’s in our nature. In the early stone age, while men were hunting, women were staying together to protect their community and raise their kids. Connection was needed for women to survive.

It’s really in our nature to connect when it comes to getting things done. Studies have shown that babies are using their instinct to connect with their parents so that they will fulfill their needs. In general, women spend more time with their kids than men. Therefore their connecting skills are getting better and better.

COMMUNITIES ARE VERY POWERFUL AND STRENGTHEN US. THE WHOLE IS GREATER THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS.

Because:

  1.     If we like each other more, it’s more fun, and we can influence each others’ behaviour
  2.     We can use the benefits from a bigger network to grow
  3.     It builds confidence in a low-key and easy way
  4.     Passion is energy: if you share the same passion or concern with others: energy flows
  5.     The ability to learn is faster if the community shares knowledge and believes in lift as you grow

LIKING TO INFLUENCE

Cialdini is a famous writer and expert in the science of persuasion. He says [link to:https://www.influenceatwork.com/principles-of-persuasion/] people prefer to say yes to those that they like. A great example of liking to influence is Schiphols Digital community.

Last year, I was responsible for the communication of Schiphols Digital transformation. In the beginning, there was internal resistance. People didn’t see the benefits of the Digital Airport Programme, and they were skeptical. Therefore, we started to build a community on an existing internal communications channel. We shared content snacks that kept the focus on the benefits for our colleagues and interacted with them. The biggest change came when we organized an offline event: the Digital Week, based on their needs. We made digital fun by offering workshops, demos, keynote speakers, and a special Schiphol digital escape room. During that event, people started to like Digital, especially when the saw their colleagues having fun, too.

It was a great success. 80% of the employees were positive and would recommend this event to their colleagues. After experiencing the benefits and ability to connect with their digital-minded colleagues, most of them were on board. Sharing knowledge and building up a community to connect can actually make your job more fun! After this digital week, our bi-weekly demo’s were visited more often, and the digital community was growing. Only when people could relate to the digital transformation could its community become successful.

USE THE BENEFITS FROM A BIGGER NETWORK TO GROW

Are you familiar with the Six Degrees of Separation theory? Scientists say that everyone in the world is six or fewer steps away from each other. It was originally set out almost 100 years ago by Frigyes Karinthy. Nowadays with the growth of social media, it only takes people 3-5 steps to connect with anyone in the world. That’s the power of communities: you can use your network to connect and grow. And if you use the network of your network, it goes even faster. Can you imagine that? You are only 3 or 4 steps away from connecting with Oprah Winfrey or any other inspiring person, just because of the power of communities!

CONNECTING BUILDS CONFIDENCE IN A LOW-KEY AND EASY WAY

Connecting by using an existing community is easy, and it builds confidence. You can start with small steps. Communities don’t have to be big and you don’t need to have a big budget. Just one nice idea and a few like-minded people are enough to build a successful community to connect and achieve more. Take, for example, the Ambitieuze Meisjes (Ambitious Young Women) community on Facebook. Their entrepreneurs and young professionals can share their thoughts and ask questions about being successful in their business. Women don’t need an old boys network; they can connect on online communities. The engagement rate is super high, and I haven’t seen any questions gone unanswered. This is great for the community members, and it builds confidence. Connecting is easy. You can use existing platforms or established communities. It’s also fun.

PASSION IS ENERGY

“Passion is energy,” says Oprah Winfrey. “Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” I totally agree with her. You all know what happens when you talk about your favorite subject, right? You get a sparkle in your eyes that others immediately recognize, and it’s fun. It helps you to connect. We all love connecting with others who share the same passion as we do.

EXAMPLE OF A COMMUNITY BUILT OUT OF PASSION: INCLUDE NOW

If you connect with like-minded people who share the same passion, then building a community can be easy. For example, Include Now, the community I co-founded, was born out of a common passion. It all started with the idea of some like-minded people who shared a passion for more diversity and less stereotyping in the marketing communications industry. They started a Facebook group to share positive stories, research, and cases in order to learn from each other and to get examples of how to communicate more completely.

At the start of October 2016, we would never have expected that, after 1.5 years, we would have 347 community members, all who are very active in the Include Now online Facebook group. Nor, at that time, would we have expected that we would have a group of 30 volunteers working in 8 different task forces to make a difference. And we didn’t even dream of the fact that 4 of us actually started the Include Now foundation in April 2018 to make this idea work. This is a foundation on top of the Include Now community which will remain very important for support. I am very passionate about this initiative and proud to share this story with you. Not just because it’s my story, but also because it proves that if you have a great idea you are passionate about, you can succeed. The only thing you have to do is start with an easily accessible small (Facebook) community and there you go.

LEARN FASTER IF THE COMMUNITY SHARES KNOWLEDGE AND BELIEVES IN LIFT AS YOU GROW

Last, but not least, communities are very powerful. The strengthen us as a whole because of the ability to learn from each other and to learn faster. My last example is the online community Women Talk Tech. This online community was born out of a need to have more women on stages and represented in leadership in tech. Great ideas fueling innovation and diversity breeds great, different, out-of-the-box thinking. Therefore, the Women Talk Tech community welcomes women in tech, event organizers, tech companies and others interested in promoting diversity and developing more female speakers in tech.

We’re a new initiative, just started in November 2017, and are a work in progress. At the Websummit congress last year, myself and my co-founder, Jessika Lynch, have discovered that there is a lack of great women on stage. Jessika posted just one single post to the Women in Websummit Facebook group and asked one question: who was interesting in speaking at events like these? She was overwhelmed with the reactions of women who were interested. Therefore we’ve started  Women Talk Tech as a way to help other women to reach their speaker goals. By sharing opportunities and tips, we give the women in our community the ability to grow faster. It has now 256 members, and since it’s still a work in progress, the community keeps on growing.

CONCLUSION

So you see, small connections can bring you so much. A big journey begins with small steps. Communities help you with your personal development, help you grow in your career and as a person, make you feel supported and more confident, and it’s fun! I hope you all believe in the power of communities, too. Please do not hesitate to start your own community or add value to an existing one.

guest writer:
As a leader in digital marketing communications and co-founder of the online communities Include Now and Women Talk Tech, Maartje Blijleven attributes her success to the power of communities. She speaks on how communities and networks strengthen both individuals and organizations, and loves to share her expertise with both directors as well as external organizations.

Find Maartje here.

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